Originally posted on September 8th, 2006

A slice of the movie poster for THE FALL (Yes, that’s the same ornament as in the new Ink & Circumstance column. I’m feeling Victorian right now.)

Hello again. Please excuse the days of silence between posts. It’s been a busy week, indeed. Many projects demanded my attention into the wee hours and left no energy to do anything but shuffle into the bedroom and keel over.

That said, it makes me want to sing the praises of the Machine. For the first years of my commercial work I never had a computer. I did my drawings on paper and that’s where they stayed. Everything was black and white. (Google Letratone, why don’t you, and have a laugh at my Amish beginnings.) In the rare instances that I had a second color to work with, I made a second plate of sorts, by inking it on tissue paper with handmade registration marks.

I got my first computer in my second term of art school. The year was 1994. I wasn’t yet 21 and Photoshop 2.5.1 had no layers. I hadn’t even heard of the Internet. I sent my first Eudora e-mail in December of 1996.

Just about ten years later, my whole life runs through my computer. Most of the time I don’t even think about it anymore. But a week like this one makes me stop and take note.

In the last few days I’ve designed a movie poster that’s printing at a service bureau in South Pasadena right now. I designed some movie titles that I e-mailed to Paris to be added to the final reel of Tarsem’s new movie that’s premiering in Toronto on Saturday. On Monday I whipped out a set of business cards for the man, posted it to my printer’s server on the other end of Pasadena. Those cards are off to Toronto in the morning, too. When I left my chair and went outside my house it was only by choice.

All the while, I’ve been comping up more and more merchandising items for my book that would put any ad agency pitch to shame. Those are coming off my little Epson printer at photo quality.

Let’s not forget that I went online to book a flight to New York, so I can pitch the book to publishers, who I contacted by e-mail, sending them an active link to a little mini site with PDFs of the whole 112-page project, compressed to a svelte 7MB of fun.

I bought a bunch of obscure music on iTunes, downloaded a few clips from YouTube and formatted them for my iPod, helped a friend by doing some web searches for her, got photos of a building in Tucson, AZ that I’ll be muralizing as part of an AIGA presentation in October…

If you’re just a little bit younger than me, you may be thinking “Well… gee whiz. What about it?” It’s hard to remember what life was like before computers. Sometimes I think back to high school and have to really remind myself that I didn’t google for anything. I wrote my papers based on library research and lecture notes. I wrote letters in longhand. Sometimes two or three a day. How quaint. Over the past 24 hours I’ve written 57 e-mails.

I’m part of the last generation of Westerners that grew up without immediate and pervasive access to personal computing. I started with a horse drawn buggy and now I’ve got myself a nice new Studebaker. No nostalgia here, either. I’ve never, ever longed for the days when I had to do a lot of things by hand. I had a mechanical typewriter once. And an electric one. And lots of glue sticks. Screw that. More progress, please! Sign me up for Mac OS XIV.

The bottom line is that I couldn’t have my own studio without my Mac. I’d rely on all kinds of real world infrastructure to do what I do, I’d need to invest some serious cash to make that happen. Odds are, I’d be working for the Man instead. But thanks to my little Machine I get to be as free as you can be without having rich parents or winning the lottery. And that’s pretty good.

The big question is, as always: What’s next?

I’m excited to get my very own desktop rapid prototyping machine.
Something like this, but smaller and cheaper. Cheap enough to have fun and goof around. Imagine the fun we could have.

And where’s my Google implant, anyway?

And when will Photoshop understand context?
Select this tree. Remove the background behind this poodle.

RFIDs combined with cheap, pervasive GPS, everywhere-always-on wireless internet access and electronic payment through my cell phone.

Oh, and could I please have a SIM card for my computer?
Why can’t every computer be my computer?

I think futurists that bill themselves as such are snake oil salesmen. But PRINT magazine recently ran an excerpt of a speech Gordon Lippincott gave at the 1956 Aspen Design Conference. He basically anticipated e-commerce in detail 50 years ago. Gordon was a designer and account planner. My friend Russell is a musician, writer, and account planner. He’s also a blogger. I’m going to be much better about reading his posts carefully and frequently from now on. Take a look. He has interesting things to say and links to all kinds of excellent content.

I’ll post more new work for you soon, and I hope to have more things to reveal about the new book very shortly.

For now I hope that you’re headed for a mellow weekend. Do please remember that 344 LOVES YOU


  • 9 September 2006 1:37 pm

    thanks for the props Stefan.
    Relating to computers and progress and stuff:
    My Dad has never heard that modem logging-on, handshaking sound. My son never will. It’s gone. It’s a sound that existed for a brief number of years, and now it’ll never come back.

  • 9 September 2006 2:02 pm

    You’re absolutely right about that sound, Russell. Did you ever listen to Etienne de Crecy’s album “Tempovision”? It starts with that noise. Arthur won’t understand what that means at all. How about the test picture when TV stations go ofline for the night. That’s gone. Or, you know… film photography…

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